Addressing a meeting of a prominent scheduled cast organisation in Kochi on Sunday, Gujarat chief minister and BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi played to the hilt his Dalit card. Modi was inaugurating the centenary celebration of Kayal Sammelan (lake meeting), organised by SC outfit Kerala Pulayar Maha Sabha (KPMS). A century back, Dalits in Kochi held a meeting on a flotilla in the backwaters when the then rulers did not permit the backward community to organise meetings on land.
Noting the absence of Kochi Mayor, a Congress leader, at the venue despite his name on the invitation letter, Modi said that “Even I am living in this society as a victim of untouchability.” He said in the last century, those who had brought changes in the country were either from the backward community or who had dedicated their lives for the Dalits.
Highlighting his humble upbringing as the son of a woman who used to clean utensils in the neighbourhood, Modi said he had raised his voice against untouchability from his school days.
“Mark my words that in the next ten years the backward community will rule in India,” said Modi. He also touched the local grouse of the backward community by claiming that their social reformer Ayyankali was not adequately honoured for his contributions. “We should have a memorial for Ayyankali who helped in the community’s upliftment. The responsibility to raise a memorial for Ayyankali is also assigned to me.’’
Attacking the Gandhi family indirectly, Modi said certain people think whatever happened in the country over the last 60 years was due to the toil of a single family. “Normally, politicians are blamed for working towards their own family’s interest. However, I have not done anything for my family. But, if I come to power in 2014, I want to do something for my family. That would not be my biological family, it would be the backward community,” Modi said.
Pointing towards the SC crowd in front of him, Modi said, “This is my family. I was born and brought up here. Justice is our right and Dr B R Ambedkar’s commandments of educate, organise and agitate are still relevant.”
Stating that the backward communities were victims of vote-bank politics, Modi said it has created tension between communities and pitted people against each other. The last 60 years has only witnessed the divide and rule policy as they are experts in spewing poison,” said Modi, in another veiled attack on Sonia Gandhi’s comment ‘zehar ki kheti’ on BJP.
Hitting out at the Ranganath Misra Commission report for religious and linguistic minorities, Modi said the commission was an attempt to rob the Dalits of their rights envisaged in the constitution. Nobody has the right to take back the privileges given by Ambedkar. The Misra commission report was an attempt to sow seeds of hatred.
Backward Ezhava Hindu leader and general secretary of Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam Vellappally Nateshan, who was also part of the meeting questioned if it was appropriate to consider Modi as an untouchable. “Only recently did I get to know that although fair-skinned, Modi is from a backward community. When you assume power in Delhi, you should not forget the support you have received from the people of this community. Remember these dark-skinned people and give back their due rights,” said Nateshan.
Nateshan’s Ezhava community is mainly a Left vote-bank in Kerala.